Friday, February 5, 2010

Dominican Republic Post Haitian Earthquake

I returned from the DR a couple days ago. Had I been given the chance to go to Haiti and do more good than the resources I would have used, I would have jumped on the opportunity. But that didn't happen. My first concern when I arrived at Los Frios was to make sure that my Haitian friends didn't lose any family. I already knew Los Frios had no damage done. None of my Haitian friends lost immediate family. However, Fredi, the one I wrote about in Barista Magazine, lost a cousin. She was missing but there was a leg with a shoe still on it found in the rubble of her house. Just a leg with a shoe. It is a pretty vivid mental image it conjures up for me. Her husband was outside the house when it happened is fine.

What are Dominicans saying about the quake?

1) First there is obvious lament towards the Sister Country. And general recognition that the second largest and most prized city of the DR Santiago is due for a shake down. There are 11 minor faults that run through the small island.

2) Frustration at the full and overflowing Dominican hospitals full with ill and injured Haitians. If you are Dominican and injured, expect to be at the back of the line because there are more Haitians than beds in some of these DR hospitals and they are worse off. What if there was a disaster in Northern Mexico and all Southern Cali hospitals were flooded with illegal immigrants? I imagine some people from CA would respond the same.

3) Many people "felt" the earthquake as dizziness. I heard one person on the radio say that she didn't feel the quake physically, but did feel it psychologically. As an animal she felt something change in her environment.

4) In typical Dominican-Broadcast-Radio fashion, people were yelling at the top of their lungs, this time about caravans of aid driving through communities in need en route to Port-au-Prince. Arrogant ignorant people yelling in the radio is not something new in the DR. We have plenty of those people here in the US as well. They saw a major problem that people were helping Haiti when there are Dominican communities in need. Well yes. Both of them need help. In my opinion, Haiti needs more help now and they did before the quake as well. Agree to disagree.

5) General concern about an increase in prices in the DR. Supply of water, foodstuffs, medical supplies, and resources went down and demand hasn't changed. . . prices will go up. Not all aid will be shipped directly or via the DR to Port-au-Prince. Much of it will be purchased in the DR and trucked in. This is a small island. We can't turn to a neighbor and receive instant foodstuff and infrastructure to meet the decrease supply lost in the quake. When people like Antonio mentioned the inevitable increase in food price it wasn't with resentment or anger. It was with his gentle farmer things-usually-don't-work-out voice.

6) The addition of 3rd language on customs forms. For the last 7 years I've only seen, Spanish and English. Now French has been added. A very nice political gesture I must say. Haiti's official language is French but everyone speaks Haitian Creol. There were also many more traveling Haitians on DR flights.

7) I heard about 6 or 7 farmers mention that droughts follow earthquakes. A bad drought always follows a quake. These are the types of farmers that don't plant or harvest on the new moon, except Guama which can be planted on the new moon of July, the same farmers that don't allow women in their cycle to be on the farm, the same farmers that can maybe totally illiterate but the can calculate yields of coffee to the pound and costs at each step in their head. I've learned not to bet against these types of farmers, because they almost always are right.

In review, I hope Port-au-Prince take the opportunity to rebuild their city and their nation. I hope through sympathy and understanding the Haitian and Dominican governments and people can work together and relations improve on both sides of the island.

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